Nonprofit organizations can trace their roots back to ancient Egypt and Rome. In 2009, nonprofits all have one thing in common: They allocate their profits to benefit other individuals, groups or causes, not shareholders.
In ancient Egypt, King Ptolemy I began the famous Alexandria Library. This library is considered to be the first research institution.
Early settlers in the United States built schools and churches to maintain the public welfare. Settlers gave of their time and treasure to support these communal efforts.
In the 1740s, Benjamin Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania to educate youth. In the 1900s, businessman Andrew Carnegie gave away millions to support many libraries, schools and universities across the United States.
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are currently 1,514,821 tax-exempt organizations registered with the Internal Revenue Service in the United States. Nonprofit organizations pay a 4 percent annual excise tax on their annual investment income.
The largest U.S. nonprofit organization, with an endowment of $34 billion, is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This organization gives grants to enhance health care and education across the world.